The ammonia tank in Haifa
The ammonia tank is dangerous near residential areas of Haifa. Photo by Hagay Frid
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Tomer Neuberg
An ammonia tank in Haifa bay, as shown on May 21, 2009. Photo by Tomer Neuberg

An ammonia tank in Haifa that is considered a potentially deadly environmental threat is due to be shut down in three years.

The Environment Ministry told the Tzalul environmental group that the reservoir, which is owned and operated by Haifa Chemicals, is due to be removed in 2015.

In March, the Environment and Industry, Trade and Employment Ministries backed a plan to construct an ammonia production plant in the Negev's Mishor Rotem region as a substitute for the Haifa ammonia reservoir, which has a capacity of 14,000 tons. But until now, the decision to build the new plant and shut the reservoir had included no timetable.

The Environment Ministry said it has received more than 10 inquiries from investors and entrepreneurs interesting in developing the new facility, which would make use of Israel's growing supplies of natural gas. The government will determine by the end of the month what kind of tax and other benefits they are entitled to under the Law for the Encouragement of Investments.

Ammonia, which is derived primarily from natural gas, is used by the fertilizer industry and as a coolant.

Because the new plant would be manufacturing the chemical itself, it would not have to store such large quantities of ammonia.

Nevertheless, Dalia Tal, campaign director at Tzalul, expressed concern that the closure of the reservoir hinged on private sector companies erecting a plant. "What that means is that there is a reasonable risk that the plant won't be built," she said.